Friday, March 19, 2010

Carl Sagan on talk show hosted by John Denver

Someone posted this on Facebook recently, and I just had to share it. Carl Sagan is one of my all-time heroes and this is a real joy, as Denver says in the interview. It seems to take place shortly after the Voyager missions launched and a little while after the Viking mission to Mars.They also discuss the "recent" launch of the space shuttle Enterprise so that would put it around early 1978ish, methinks. This is Carl Sagan at his best. Eloquent, authoritative, but never condescending.

Who is there today that even approaches his enthusiasm for communicating science, as well as his ability to convey complex ideas to a non-scientific general audience? I can only think of one person, maybe two, who give me that same thrill. The first is Dr. Caroline Porco. When you hear her speak, she conveys that same delight and awe in exploring the universe as Dr. Sagan did. Check out her TED talks on the Cassini mission to see what I'm talking about. The second, although this is based solely on the trailer to "Wonders Of the Solar System", is Professor Brian Cox of the University of Manchester. My first reaction to the trailer: this is Cosmos 2010! It really got my geeky juices flowing, and I just can't wait to see it! You can follow Dr. Porco and Professor Cox on Twitter: @carolineporco @ProfBrianCox I highly recommend them.

Carl Sagan was a prolific writer, but two of his books in particular stand out. Cosmos, and The Demon Haunted World.

The Demon Haunted World is a classic in critical thinking. It tackles everything woo-related from alien abductions to ghosts to the afterlife, all the while pointing out that while an open mind is a good thing to have, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. It was the first book of its type I had ever read, and it's safe to say it profoundly changed the way I view the world.

Cosmos is simply amazing. And the television series is an absolute jewel. If you haven't seen it yet, what are you waiting for? Even 30 years later, it still holds up. And for rewatch vallue, you just can't beat it.

There is a photograph of Earth taken by Voyager 1 as seen from 4 billion miles away (can't you just hear that explosive Sagan "B"!)  that has become iconic. Here is Carl himself reading the passage he wrote describing it, taken from his book "The Pale Blue Dot":

Now tell me science has no soul! 

Carl Sagan died in 1996 following a long struggle with myelodysplasia at the relatively young age of 62. Such a loss to humanity, but he left us such a legacy. I wonder what he would have accomplished were he still with us?

One thing is for sure: he would never have bored us.


Posted via web from John's posterous

No comments:

Post a Comment